Is your favorite blogger a dirty, rotten thief?

I hate thieves. Being taken advantage of and deceived are things that fail to make me all warm and happy inside. That's why I didn't enjoy getting spammed by a fellow blogger who stole my email address.

I recently commented on someone's blog for the first time. Within a few days I received a spammy promotional pitch from the blogger. I didn't sign up for his email list and I responded to the note, asking him to remove me from his list. His response? By commenting I was bound by his comment policy and agreed to opt into his newsletter. 

I checked out his commenting policy and there was nothing that said by commenting I agreed to opt into mailings. Nothing. Was his response an intentional lie? Hmmm. I emailed him again and once more asked to be removed from his distribution list (since there was no way to remove myself). He said there was no list; it was a plug in. He went on to say I was the first person to ever complain about it.

I asked yet a third time to be removed from his distribution list. He finally said he'd "try" to remove me. Never, not once, apologizing for the situation. Did he really think forcing me to be on his list was winning me over? Is it smart to make someone ask three times to be removed from your list? Is that the way to create meaningful online relationships? As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Spammy McUnethical stole my email address and used it without my permission. Dirty, rotten thief.

Those of us who have blogs are sometimes privy to people's email addresses. Depending on the commenting system and the way a commenter chooses to log in to comment, email addresses may be visible to the blog owner. I've seen many of my commenters' email addresses when they leave comments and, you know what? I don't collect them, sell them, or do anything unethical with them. I delete them. It's someone's private information and I take that seriously. My mama didn't raise a thief.

But, apparently, some bloggers out there are a little fast and loose with your private information. Beware. And, most of all, don't put up with it. If someone betrays your trust, move on. If you condone their lapse in ethics, you enable them to continue. Data theft is no different than property theft.

What do you think? Even if it was in the commenting policy (which is was not), does that mean a person can never ask to be removed from someone's distribution list? Isn't the whole point of having email lists to help strengthen the bond with your community, not alienate it? Is it alright for a blogger to use your personal information any way they choose? Have you ever been the victim of data theft?

36 comments:

  1. not sure about the blogger but some blogs use a service like Discus for comments and I don't think the blogger has control.

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  2. Ugh. Your story makes me think of the ways some people implement e-letter campaigns. They collect addresses any way they can, then act all surprised when the e-letter platform kills their account because of a high spam complaint.

    I've never had my email address stolen via a comment left on a blog, but it happens a lot when I attend networking events. I give someone my business card, and - voila! - I'm on an email list to which I never subscribed and never knew existed. Personally, I always ask before adding anyone to the email list I'm building. I think it's common courtesy, and most people respond well to such treatment.

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  3. Whoa...I think I felt my blood pressure rising as I read this.  The audacity!! And, you are right, even if this blogger used a commenting system that automatically enrolled you in his email listing, all it should take is ONE request from the unwitting "subscriber" to be removed and he should graciously oblige. The lack of social manners was inexcusable.  And you, my friend, are a perfect example of grace and charm by never once mentioning this person's name to publicly embarrass him (although, perhaps, he is not the kind to get embarrassed)  You are professional in demeanor through and through!  And, you handled the entire situation with great aplomb, Amber.  Like you, I have never (nor will I ever) collected the email data from my kind community.  Part of creating community is building a trust relationship and that pretty much seems to be the exact opposite of trusting relationship!
    Thank you for sharing!
    Claudia

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  4. Wow! what an idiot!! He's acting totally against the whole idea of collecting "supporters". That just shows the amount of grey matter he actually possesses ;-)
    I have only been active with socail media for about 1 year. But one thing I have noticed is that all sense of ethics, principles etc seem to go out of the window. People seem to think that because you (or they) can't be seen, they can do what they want.  

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  5. Hi Erin,

    Asking before doing? What a novel concept!

    It blows me away when people do that. I mean, do they really think that's the way to get people on their sides? Ugh. What a disgrace.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. Too many people out there without scruples, huh?

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  6. Hi Claudia,

    Thanks for sharing your opinion on this. Frankly, I'm with you. Shouldn't a person just have to ask once to have the issue rectified? I mean, if I weren't so darn persistent, I'd still be on that guy's list. Making someone ask three times is downright wrong.

    All I can do is NEVER visit his blog again. I've blocked him on Twitter for good measure. Ironically, the scumbag has since sent me an invite to connect on LinkedIn and has circled me on Google+ (blocked there, too!). I mean, really? This moron thinks I still have an interest in connecting with him after that? You're right, I doubt he's the kind to get embarrassed!.

    Thanks for the nice words, Claudia, They DO mean a lot to me. ;-)

    Keep up the ethical blogging, my friend!

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  7. Very true, Vanessa. I think sometimes people forget that there are people on the other end of that internet connection. They see the screen and somehow disassociate themselves with the reality of the situation. Or, perhaps they have no ethics in "real life", either! Hard to know for sure.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Vanessa. It's refreshing to know others see the error in this man's thinking. Maybe I can buy him some pretty, bejeweled ethics from your jewelery website! ;-) 

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  8. I can't say it shocks me that people do this. I personally don't do anything with people's e-mails when they comment on my blog, outside of a possible response e-mail if it's needed/called for etc. If someone is basically strong-arming you and saying that they have that right, then that's wrong, no matter how you look at it.

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  9. Amber, aloha. What a shame.  Even if his system did automatically "grant him permission" to use your address without you specifically agreeing to it (or should I say noticing it?), once you asked, you definitely should have been removed along with an apology.

    In thinking about it, I did hear that there was a plugin that showed people automatically subscribed unless they unchecked the box.  That being said, you would have had to notice the box & uncheck it.

    My feeling is why would you want to collect people who are not interested in what you have to say?  We all have people who come over to our blogs because we wrote on a topic that was of particular interest to them.  However, the bulk of what we write is not appropriate for their interests. 

    Stories like this are what give social media, blogging and the online world in general a bad name. 

    No way should a blogger ever use info that was not given to them for the express purpose of being used.  While I see addresses when people comment on my blog, like you, Amber, I do not collect or use them in any way.

    Keeping my fingers crossed on the data theft; so far, so good.

    Best wishes for a glorious weekend.  Aloha.  Janet

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  10. I couldn't agree more, P.J.

    Even if someone was dupped into joining a list, if they ask to be removed that should be the end of the story. I went from being indifferent to this guy to hating him in the blink of an eye.

    Yeah, that's they way to grow your business and your online community. Nothing more than the tactics of a thug.

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  11. Hey Janet! So true. Why would anyone want to keep a subscriber against their will? Talk about creating ILL will! Geez.

    His commenting system is LiveFyre and I see no box to uncheck. Who knows how he's worked the system, but it's deceptive at best. As you say, stories like this give the greater community a bad name.

    Thanks for adding your thoughts to the discussion, Janet. Always a pleasure ;-)

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  12. That is frustrating. Email can still be a practical tool, when used properly by both sides of the discussion. I can't imagine what this blogger was thinking, like you would actually purchase anything from them after that type of treatment. Customer DIS-SERVICE.

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  13. Hi Troy! Yes, DIS service it was.

    Instead of making me want to do business with him and continue to visit his blog, he alienated me completely and made me hate him. If he had just apologized when I first complained and promptly removed me, it would have been annoying, but over. Now, he's earned himself a block on all the social media platforms and my ire.

    Thanks for chiming in, Troy!

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  14. :/ yikes.  I expected the unwillingness to do business, but ... the ire.  8^O

    Now you're serious!   All joking aside I completely agree.  Every time we type (or ask someone to type) their email, or any other contact information, there needs to be some level of trust.  I wish that were true everywhere, but that's clearly not the case.   I hope your email drama with them is over.

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  15. Oh, yeah. Cross me and I'm all about the ire ;-)

    You're so right. This is about trust. Visit someone's site, participate in their community and there's an implied agreement of mutual respect. Trust.

    And saying I'm the first one to complain as thought I'M the problem and not him? Well, I'm sure too many people are just willing to go along with bad behavior, but I'm just not. Treat me wrong and I let you know.

    And the ironic part is I asked nicely the first time. I was a wee bit annoyed, but nothing big. It's the refusal to remove me and making me repeat my request THREE TIMES that got me all worked up. Because having an angry redhead on the receiving end of your stupid email blast is good marketing? Nimrod.

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  16. messed up? yep, definitely. otherwise, how is the bestest person on the left coast doing?

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  17. Let me think about this for a moment? WTF??? When did asking politely to have your information deleted become passe? "She's saying no when she really mean yes??" The mentality is wrong in every scenario.

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  18. You tell me, is my favorite blogger a thief; well, are you?

    I was hoping to just wear you down and you would quit asking me to remove your e-mail address. And I can't believe anyone would be fast and loose with our personal information; this is 'social' media, right?

    Whether it's automated or not, if someone asks to be removed they should do it. Don't make me run the gauntlet like trying to get out of a gym membership or something. It is certainly not endearing and not transparent either; kind of icky and no way to conduct yourself or your business.

    What's wrong w/ some of these people, huh? 

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  19. That's just wrong in every way!  Basically that blogger sounds like a jerk! He has absolutely no respect for private info.

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  20. Well said, Melody! After this episode, I blocked him on Twitter. Later, he sent me an invite to connect on LinkedIn. Can you believe that????

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  21. Ha ha. Oh, I'm so not your favorite blogger. I think Gini is ;-)

    You're so right, it WAS like trying to get out of a gym membership! Ugh. Great comparison.

    I mean this is a guy I had been connected with on Twitter. I left a message on his blog to be nice, and as a thank you he decided to act like a thug. Icky, indeed!

    What's wrong with these people, you ask? Great question. Just a complete lack of ethics, I guess.

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  22. Hey Todd! The guy totally deserves a cyber slap. Jerk face.

    Are you asking how I am or is that a trick question? ;-)

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  23. Hi Cheri, yeah, very wrong. Every time I see someone interact with this scumbag on Twitter I want to out him, but eventually everyone shows their true colors. I just saw them quicker than most.

    Thanks for stopping by, lovely lady!

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  24. Unfortunately any old person off any old street can create something on social media these days and a good percentage of them don't have the class to treat this tool in an appropriate or respectful manner.  I have heard much much worse stories in recent days which have shocked me to the bone.  Don't forget to keep any correspondence with this person, and if they don't take action to leave you alone report them to their Internet Service Provider.

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  25. Hi Steven, I'm a journalist at heart so I definitely hung onto the emails. And, he removed me after he realized I wasn't going to let it go.

    Yeah, this isn't the worst thing that can happen online. But for someone active on social media sites with a well-read blog, well, he should know better. I suspect he does, but was too stubborn to admit any wrongdoing. I guess it's easier to blame me (I WAS the first person to complain of all the nerve!), than it was to look at his own actions.

    Thanks for stopping by and chiming in, Steven!

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  26. Re: "His response? By commenting I was bound by his comment policy and agreed to opt into his newsletter."

    That's horrible and totally inappropriate. 

    I get that some bloggers will want to use "comment redirect" plugins to entice people to subscribe. Or enable check-boxes to confirm email subscriptions to comment streams. But forcing them, and/or blatantly taking advantage of emails like that is a horrible practice. 

    All emails should have an opt-out form clearly visible. And if they don't, don't question me when I ask you to opt out of your list (that I didn't opt into to begin with). 

    Personally, my email policy is pretty clear cut. It reads: "I promise to never share, trade sell, publicize or otherwise manipulate your email address in any way shape or form." 

    Period. So far, that converts pretty well ;-) I use it here and nowhere else: http://www.ricardobueno.com/email

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  27. Hey Ricardo. It always blows me away when people active in the space use such unethical practices. I was also opted into another newsletter by a really big name. Again, no warning, asking, or opting in. Forced participation. Fortunately, there was an unsubscribe option in his newsletter so it was easy to opt out.

    I just think you're only as good as your reputation. Use shaddy practices and I know all I need to know about you. More people should have the kind of email policy that you have. It's the right thing to do.

    Thanks for chiming in!

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  28. That is scary, but makes me feel a bit better. Just ordered new glasses frames off the internet (i'm always careful/read reviews, etc), but then they said they were "out of stock" and woudn't credit my account.  Tried again w/ company #2, same results...i'm beginning to think I should take a break from the web...

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  29. Hi Elizabeth. I think ecommerce is a much different animals. I'm really talking about bloggers in this piece. People who manage their own sites and misuse data.

    As for your shopping experience, that sounds dreadful. Definitely, not an ethical business practice. Charges should never be made to your card until the transaction is complete. I wouldn't shop with either site, again. And, you should report both to your credit card company!

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  30. Wow! I absolutely cannot believe this happened, Amber! Thanks so much for sharing your story, so we can all be on the lookout for scams like this too.

    It makes no sense to me at all why he wouldn't agree to remove you from the list from the very beginning. If you have no interest in being subscribed, you would have deleted everything he sent you anyway or at least marked them as spam. There are various subscriptions that I haven't been able to unsubscribe from and I just filter them through Gmail to go directly to my trash. =P

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  31. Hi Samantha! It's like he thought coercion would win the race. Who reacts all warm and fuzzy when they're bullied and ignored?

    I'm still dumbfounded that I had to ask him three times. Like he thought he'd win me over and I'd be a fan/client/supporter after that? Ridiculous!

    No kidding. Keep on the lookout for charlatans, for sure!

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  32. What a crappy thing to do!  Can't you whisper in my ear who the scoundrel was so that I won't comment and get on his list, too?  (I'm assuming your comment wasn't, "This is one crappy blog, you jerk!")   

    You get an A+ for persistence!  

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  33. Hello Mary Lee! Ha ha. No, that wasn't my comment. :-) Although, I wish I could take back the nice I comment I did leave (his commenting system won't let me delete it).

    Thanks for the A+! And, thanks for stopping by!

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  36. I use Disqus and have complete control ;-)

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